April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. What exactly does that mean? For each person, it can be a different experience. For me, it is an eye opener to what could happen and how I should start thinking about what would be best for my family if end-of-life decisions needed to be made.
I always say it is important to plan ahead. But sometimes, there are things that we feel uncomfortable talking about and put them of for another day. It feels stressful and awkward but so important should a health crisis arise.
According to a national survey, more than 90% of the people think it’s important to talk about their loved ones’ and their own wishes for end-of-life care, but fewer than 30% of people have actually had the conversation. Many people simply haven’t gotten around to taking the necessary steps to crystallize what they want and to formalize it. Sometimes it’s because people don’t know how to start the conversation with their loved ones.
On this National Healthcare Decisions Day, it is important to take the time to plan.
A great way to start is by thinking about what is most important to you if you or your loved ones were facing a life threatening or progressive illness and then you can move on to thoughtful and open conversations with those you love.
As a wife, a mom to three and a daughter to two, I think I really need to start the conversation while everyone is well. Sometimes those conversations can be the toughest, so here are some simple steps to get the conversation started:
- Think about what is most important to you. What are your greatest fears, hopes and goals? Who would you prefer to make decisions on your behalf with your physicians if you could not? How sure are you of your choices? Do you want your chosen proxy to have leeway to change your decisions? Now you are ready to discuss these topics with your loved ones to reach a shared understanding of your desires.
- Talk with your loved ones. Honest communication can help families avoid the stress of guessing what a family member would have wanted. Be open with each other and focus on really understanding the views of those you love. You may find that you and your loved ones may see some things differently. That’s okay. Talk through it, listen and keep an open mind.
- Make it official. Once you’ve had the conversation, formalize your decisions by putting them in writing. There are several ways. An advance directive can help describe your medical wishes when you no longer can. Special medical orders can be developed with your doctor. Finally, a health care proxy identifies your health care agent—the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes.
- Get help. You can find valuable resources to help you think through these issues and make decisions more manageable atwww.optumcare.com and theconversationproject.org.
The following information is from Dr. Dana Lustbader, Chair of Palliative Care at ProHealth located in Manhasset.
I know that this April 16th, I am going to make an effort to begin this conversation.
Have you discussed healthcare options like this with your loved ones?
Will you start this April 16th?
This is so important! We have all had this discussion with our parents and what their plans are – but so much harder when it is between you and your spouse when you are younger.
Rebecca Bryant says
this is what scared me when hubby retires. As someone who is on Medicare due to disability I fear the day husband retired and we no longer have health insurance through his job.
Lory Robinson says
This can be hard to do but is still important. After we both lost a parent within a year of each other, we immediately set up a trust.
Erin @ Stay At Home Yogi says
Such an important talk, and you are right about it being a very difficult one as well. I lost my dad to lung cancer a little over a year ago, and we were “lucky” that he had time to express his final wishes and take care of some things on his own before he passed.
We just had a family meeting, without our parents, to discuss our concerns. They have yet to really express wishes…we now have the ball rolling. Do it early and often. Things change and death is apart of life…let’s do what our loved ones want, but in order to do that there has to be open communication.
ellen beck says
Yes my husband and I both have, We have directives and wills dine. We did our wills some time ago. This is a very important topic, Its tough enough dealing with a loved one who is ill but even harder if they havent made decisions.
A Geek Daddy says
So important to have a legal document in place spelling out your wishes for the situation when you can’t communicate them yourself whether that be coma, dementia or who knows what else. Some states call it a medical power of attorney in others its a patient advocate designation. Many people don’t realize til its too late though that normal powers of attorney don’t handle medical decisions. Also make sure you have a HIPAA release signed so your loved ones can communicate with your doctors and other medical staff about what is going on with your care.
This is a discussion worth having. I just found out I have breast cancer and then had hip surgery. Thankfully I had this discussion with my family. I am so glad you are sharing this. I think many think they can wait for this discussion.
carissa garabedian says
This hits close to home, we are having the talk and now need to make the next steps. These are such important things to address and take charge of, I cannot believe I have put it off for so long. Thank you .
Linda Tice says
My dad just got extremely ill out of the blue and that is when we discovered my mom’s dementia had progressed much faster than we thought, my dad had just been covering it up. They are very private about their health decisions and it is now causing all kinds of issues for us kids. I have already had this discussion with my children. I never want them to be in the position me and my siblings now find ourselves.
Veronica Morin says
I know this is one of the toughest decisions that we all have to face. Long Term care should be fully funded by our government.
Melinda Spaulding says
I know what I’ll be doing this Saturday now! I never really thought to much about my health unless I was sick, but this definitely opened my eyes. There are things that can’t be put off, no matter how uncomfortable they might be…
Linda Manns Linneman says
These are some great suggestions. I want my sons to know what I want so they don’t have to feel guilty about making certain decisions with my health. Thank you so much for sharing
Well, we just finished up finalizing my parents’ paperwork, now it’s time to get mine updated and in order. I looked and mine is over 5 years old and some things have changed.
Richard Hicks says
Good article chocked full of information. Thanks!
this is a great article
Thanks so much for this article. As we get older we have to think of things about out health which alot of us dont want to have to talk about. My younger brother just recently passed away suddenly and these things need to be planned ahead what to do. Being ill for many years him and his wife had everything all taken care.of. This helped immensely in the end.
Cindy Merrill says
I’ve already discussed these issues with my family members. It’s a good idea to have your wishes put in writing too, however.
I just got a bunch of these form from a non-profit agency. It can be more complicated than you think, I haven’t done it yet, but good to know there is a special day for this!